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Clinton says U.S. interests at stake in Kosovo

President certifies Mexico as drug-fighting partner

February 26, 1999
Web posted at: 4:26 p.m. EST (2126 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO (AllPolitics, February 26) -- In a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy challenges, President Bill Clinton said Friday it is in the United States' national interest to stop the fighting and repression in Kosovo before it spreads.

Clinton
President Clinton spoke Friday on challenges in U.S. foreign policy  

"Kosovo is not an easy problem, but if we don't stop the conflict now, it clearly will spread and then we will not be able to stop it except at far greater cost and risk," Clinton said.

Clinton said if the violence in the Serbian province spreads, Albania and Macedonia will be drawn in and U.S. allies Greece and Turkey also could be affected. Tensions could also spread to Bosnia and jeopardize progress there toward a stable peace, he said.

Clinton defended the recent peace talks outside Paris, saying there was progress toward a common understanding of Kosovo's autonomy, but Serbian leaders still have not accepted the necessity of a NATO-led international force to maintain the peace. The talks are set to resume March 15.

Serbian leaders must accept the fact that the only way to keep their country intact is to give Kosovo's people control over their day-to-day lives, Clinton said.

Clinton also warned Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that it is "a time for restraint, not repression," and NATO is ready to act if he moves against Kosovo's people.

If there is a NATO peace-keeping force, Europeans would provide roughly 85 percent of the troops for it, Clinton said. "But if there is a real peace, America must do its part as well," he said.

Clinton also used his talk to announce the U.S. has again certified Mexico as a full ally in fighting the war on illegal drugs, despite deep-rooted corruption in the ranks of Mexican law enforcement.

Clinton said narcotics traffickers may spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to try to suborn Mexican police, most of who make less than $10,000 a year.

But Clinton said Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo is working to establish a clean government and tackle the corruption that the traffickers have wrought.

"He cannot win this battle alone and neither can we," Clinton said.

Mexico is cooperating in the fight against drugs, Clinton said, "and I believe the American people will be safer in this, as in so many other ways, if we fight drugs with Mexico, rather than walk away."

The president's announcement could spark a battle with Republicans in Congress who have criticized Mexico's drop in narcotics seizures and a disappointing record of extraditions. They would prefer sanctions to the aid that renewed certification will mean.

Clinton, on a six-day trip to the West, goes to Park City, Utah, Saturday for some vacation time.


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Friday, February 26, 1999

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